Monday, 3 December 2007

Online Educa Berlin 2007: Day 1, Parallel sessions

Application of TEL research/Kaleidoscope: My presentation was planned to take place later that afternoon, but before then I went to find out a bit more about the research in technology-enhanced learning carried out within the Kaleidoscope Network. Kaleidoscope is a Network of Excellence (NoE) funded under the EU FP6. It comprises 90 research units across 24 countries in the EU and Canada, with 1100 researchers (2/3 of total members) and PhD students (1/3 of total members), as well as industry partners. The funding will cease at the end of 2007, but Kaleidoscope seems to be moving towards creating an association (perhaps with own regular conferences and seminars?). They maintain an open archive.

This session was presented by Barbara Wasson (University of Bergen), Judith Schoonenboom (University of Amsterdam), and Jacqueline Bourdeau (Canada, unfortunately I cannot remember her affiliation).

Barbara Wasson talked about collaborative knowledge building. Her findings were based on DoCTA (Design of Collaborative Telelearning Activity) project. Project had lots of outputs (publications, Masters Students and PhD students), but this talk was particulalry focused on students collaboratively learning how to do “science talk”. They have used Progressive Enquiry Learning (Muukkonen et al 1999) methodology, which is based on a problem solving framework. Key finding: too few students and teacher use higher order skills; many are trying to get through the problem and focus on solution rather than learning domain concepts. I wondered what the quality of problem solutions was in their study - if students do come up with good quality (whatever that means) solutions, then is there a point in worrying about how well students can articulate concepts (do the 'science talk')? What is more important - that one can solve a problem to a sufficiently good standard, or that one can articulate the solution and the process in nice and proper way?

Judith Schoonenboom's focused on TENCompetence project exploring competence development for lifelong learning (another large EU FP6 funded project). Main messages from Judith's talk:
  • existing pedagogical models are more suitable for formal education, rather than lifelong learning
  • it is difficult for individuals to have an overview of all existing lifelong learning opportunities
  • organisation do not know how to assess employees’ competences
  • centralised models of network do not work with lifelong learning

She compared principles of formal learning and principles of lifelong competence development to demonstrate these points. She then demonstrated a prototype of a system developed within the project - Personal Competence Manager. The system was trailed with 40 teachers from Bulgaria.

I wondered if this formal educational domain was really an appropraite context to trial someting that claims to be a lifelong learning competence manager. This is a rather a standard use as a competence manager software that many organisation (definitely corporations like Shell) have been using for years already to match the current and needed competences of their staff with learning and development opportunities - so what is new about this? I would have liked to see this system trialled in more realistic lifelong learning contexts - for example fisherman or farmers who cannot fish or farm anymore and have to develop a new set of competences.

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